Anyone who has ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI), can tell you just how bad they feel. Because the infection tends to impact the bladder, one of the main symptoms is that you constantly feel like you have to pee, but when you do, not much comes out. On top of that, the mere act of peeing burns and you might also feel pelvic pain. UTIs are much more common in women than men (you can thank the female anatomy for that), and things like sexual activity, birth control, and menopause can also raise your risk.
Here’s the other thing about UTIs: They are one of the most common bacterial infections. Worldwide, 150 million people get a UTI in a given year. And every year in the U.S., 10 million doctor visits are due to UTIs. Because it’s a disease that impacts women more, it’s estimated that about one in two women will experience a UTI at least once in her lifetime (and of that group, one in five will have more than one). Some people are likelier than others to get UTIs, like those with diabetes or kidney stones or women who have had several children. For men, the risk goes up if they have an enlarged prostate.
Ready for some good news? If caught early enough, antibiotics tend to treat the infection quickly and effectively. It can be a little harder to treat if the infection sticks around longer and spreads to other areas, but antibiotics still tend to do the job. There are a small percentage of women who will have recurring UTIs (which tend to be defined as three or more a year). If you experience repeated UTIs, talk to your doctor about getting tested for other health issues, like something that makes the bladder not function the way it should.
When it comes to prevention, there are a few simple habits that can help keep your urinary tract healthy: stay hydrated, consider taking a cranberry supplement (studies show compounds in cranberries can help keep offensive bacteria out of the urinary tract), and use the bathroom when you feel the urge to go—don’t hold it!
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